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The Zeiss Victory SF 8x32: a somewhat idiosyncratic, but comprehensive review (2 Viewers)

henry link

Well-known member
Henry, many are looking forward to your full review. Now may be
a good time to tell us how you measure resolution. I know I have read about
how it can be done, but an explanation would be useful and educational.
Thanks,
Jerry

Jerry,

I've done that in detail dozens of times over the last 15 years, so your best approach would be to use the search feature.

Right now I only have time for the briefest description. Place the target at a measured distance. Put the binocular on a tripod and center the target. Behind the eyepiece place a second tripod with a scope, monocular or second binocular with enough magnification to produce an exit pupil for the combination somewhere between 1.25mm and 0.5mm and align carefully. Determine the smallest group of line pairs that that can be resolved.

Henry
 

b-lilja

Well-known member
I'm glad there's a few dozen of us worldwide willing to tweak out on these details.

Bottom line, I love the 8x32SFs, but they don't have the crispest or easiest view. And sorry, they do have a green cast, for me.

I got fed up with my assessment and bought copies of the whole kit and kaboodle - I now have in front of me (for a short period of time) 8x32s:
SFs
ELs
HD+s
SEs
BNs
Conquest HDs

And I even ordered a 2nd pair of SFs to see if I got a dog first time round!

It is really hard to get my bearings with the SFs - they are superior in every way except crispness, which is probably the most important criteria. We will see what the 2nd pair is like.

The ELs have the most natural/easiest view, but also the most washed out along - perhaps glare.

Right now, perhaps the most straigthtforward/best view of all are the SEs, post Nikon service, better than ever!

TBC.
 

pm42

Well-known member
Yes, I did a complete set of measurements for full aperture and stopdowns at 35mm, 30mm, 27mm, 21.5mm and 18mm. I'll post the numbers if I ever get the review finished. The short version is mediocre full aperture resolution through one side and worse through the other. Happily, because the aberrations that compromise the full aperture resolution are confined to a 5-6mm ring at the edge of the entrance pupil everything cleans up well in both sides when the binocular is stopped down to 30mm or less.

I'm waiting to read it. In the meantime, because I'm bored (France is under lockdown), I made a quick comparison from my window.

Here is the full image, SF 8x32 vs NL Pure center, slightly out-centered and also Zeiss Victory 8x25 vs my old Leica Trino 8x32 BA and the other two.
 

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PeterPS

MEMBER
Thanks for the photos. I couldn't read the recommendations in any of them.... Seriously, the NL 42mm appears to be a tad sharper than the SF 32mm; while I am sure you have tried to take the photos under the same conditions for all binos I wonder if taking all factors into account is possible.
 

pm42

Well-known member
Seriously, the NL 42mm appears to be a tad sharper than the SF 32mm; while I am sure you have tried to take the photos under the same conditions for all binos I wonder if taking all factors into account is possible.

Shot at the same time in the same conditions, multiple pictures each time to chose the best one.
This is consistent with my usage: the NL Pure is sharper and has less CA. In real world usage, the Zeiss SF (and the Victory) are still excellent though.
 

Patudo

Well-known member
Thanks for sharing - and don't worry about the idiosyncracy - there's no shortage of that amongst most of the regulars here!

Not having the easiest view has also been commented upon by users of the NL and I wonder if this is the price that has to be paid for exceptional field of view in standard (x42) and compact (x32) binoculars.

Tell us about your SEs! I've now logged 8 hours with the 10x42 version, which has been quite an interesting experience - I'll write up some notes once I have a more meaningful amount of time behind them.
 

b_reynolds_ak

Well-known member
I'm glad there's a few dozen of us worldwide willing to tweak out on these details.

Bottom line, I love the 8x32SFs, but they don't have the crispest or easiest view. And sorry, they do have a green cast, for me.

I got fed up with my assessment and bought copies of the whole kit and kaboodle - I now have in front of me (for a short period of time) 8x32s:
SFs
ELs
HD+s
SEs
BNs
Conquest HDs

And I even ordered a 2nd pair of SFs to see if I got a dog first time round!

It is really hard to get my bearings with the SFs - they are superior in every way except crispness, which is probably the most important criteria. We will see what the 2nd pair is like.

The ELs have the most natural/easiest view, but also the most washed out along - perhaps glare.

Right now, perhaps the most straigthtforward/best view of all are the SEs, post Nikon service, better than ever!

TBC.

That will be an interesting comparison! I find that my 8x32 SF are really growing on me, especially when I use them out in the mountains under real world conditions. However, there is something about them that makes them seem slightly less sharp, as well as not such a 'brilliant' view, as EL's. I dont think you got a bad copy, I think what we are seeing is just the characteristics of this binocular. The flare control is superb though, as well as the field of view. Eye placement can be a little bit finicky, however it seems that is the trade off for such a wide fov. The NL's seem to have that issue mentioned on here as well.
 

b-lilja

Well-known member
So I'm wrapping up my review to let everyone know I have decided not to keep these. It's honestly a bit of a heartbreak, because I loved them, other than the yellow-green cast in certain conditions, which is why I decided not to keep them.

I mentioned above that I was not positive about the sharpness of the SFs. To address this, I ended up buying a second pair. The second pair seemed like they might be a bit crisper, but honestly there are certain bins that I find to be a bit tough to assess resolution on, these included.

I took the second pair to the San Juan Islands for a long weekend of birding. Here are the highlights of my takeaways:
  1. The three dimensionality of these is just incredible. All weekend, groups of birds moved through the madronas surrounding the property, eating the red berries. Townsend's Warblers, Varied Thrush, just lots of activity. Watching the birds in this setting was just a complete pleasure. We were located on a point with lots of surrounding boat traffic. You could really feel the shape of the boats. At one point a Munson drop bow was headed right for us and it felt like it might come through the glass into my eyes - I know that's hyperbole, but...
  2. Contrast was so powerful that in some scenarios (branches backlit), it was hard to see anything on the dark side of the branch.
  3. Resolution in the field was great. No issues there.
  4. Still not the easiest bins ease of view wise. But what a view.
  5. In sum, these felt like truly next generation bins - not just another version of an alpha, but instead the next step forward optically in binoculars state of the art. I have a couple of 70s homages here - but they brought to mind The Bionic Man's eye...
But here's the gig. The weekend was overcast. Bear in mind we are at about 48N sun angle wise - currently about 25 degrees midday. There were simply too many times I put the glasses to the eye and actually noticed a color shift in view, as in, wow, that's a change in color. This is the first time I have experienced this, and I have used Conquest HDs for years, which have a similar color cast profile, but not as strong. In particular, I found there were times that blue seas rendered greenish, and slate blue cloud colors similarly shifting yellow green. Recently I have been listening to a lot of Brian Eno ambient music, and somehow "Another Green World" starting running through my mind subliminally. I am realizing every binocular has its color shift moments and directions if you look for them, but I just found it more pronounced on these, to the degree I didn't want to keep them.

I realize many have not found this green cast, including important folks like the site host. I have no issues with that. For me, my two samples both had it, for me. This is a great example of the bottom line adage that it's all up to you man - what do you like, what do you not like, what works and what doesn't. See for yourself. I, for one, will be hoping Zeiss messes with the coatings a bit and I will be first in line to buy the update...
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Finally had a chance to read through this thread, I really enjoyed your review and once again I find we have extremely similar methods and preferences. A few assorted thoughts in response to things which caught my eye....

Color cast is a topic I've discussed / argued about a lot on these forums, and I am particularly sensitive to it. It's a difficult subject to discuss, because one person's "tint" is another's "cast" is another's "emphasis". The terms are mushy and our subjective perceptions quite different.

I often find that color balance isn't as obvious at first, and only after using them in various habitats and lighting conditions can you nail it down. And with good binoculars, where these shifts from neutrality are relatively slight, it's often only REALLY obvious in direct A/B comparison.

As an example, I have two Ultravid HD (not plus), 8x32 and 7x42. I find both to appear quite neutral and vivid in good light if I don't study things too critically. But if I do careful comparisons I can see the relative emphasis of the warm end of the spectrum and the slight dingy yellowing of deep blues. But for the most part, just using them and not thinking about it, it's not an issue. But compare them A/B with quick switches vs a "green" binocular like the Conquest HD and the departure from neutrality (for both) is strikingly obvious to me.

As a common reference point, I'm curious if you could compare the color of the 32mm Conquest HD to the SF? And have you tried the 8x25 Victory? These are binoculars I've owned recently and know well. I would describe the 32mm Conquest HD as having a slight green "cast", but not the 8x25 Victory which is more netural, vivid and transparent. With the 8x25 Victory, even though I can detect a slight bias towards coolness (blue/green), it doesn't rise to the level of a "color cast" to me. Perhaps what we are really describing is how closely they adhere to neutrality given our particular eye/brain thresholds, and once?

I also find that the Conquests are extremely crisp, in a "technical" way as you described, but flatter and less "emotional" than the Leica Ultravid saturated warmth. It is my pet theory that the "Zeiss hump" transmission with a peak in the center (500-600nm) and rolling off on both ends (deep blue is worse than Swaro and deep red is worse than Leica) improves the "crispness" and "technical" feel but also yields the slightly "flatter" look.

These are subtle things that are difficult to describe well.

That will be an interesting comparison! I find that my 8x32 SF are really growing on me, especially when I use them out in the mountains under real world conditions. However, there is something about them that makes them seem slightly less sharp, as well as not such a 'brilliant' view, as EL's. I dont think you got a bad copy, I think what we are seeing is just the characteristics of this binocular.

On the SF vs EL, I was surprised to see Gijs' measurements showing the EL SV to have a pretty sizable transmission advantage over the SF. Usually the comparable Zeiss vs Swaro has the Zeiss peaking a little hire in the center of the spectrum, with the Swaro pulling ahead as it heads towards the blue, but the Swaro EL SV is well ahead of the 8x32 SF pretty much across the spectrum. That's clearly why people are reporting the SV to be more brilliant, but I find the just-OK transmission of the SF to be surprising considering some of the glowing praise (and Zeiss's reputation for very high transmission with the FL and HT series).

1607394013542.png
 

eronald

Well-known member
I own a bunch of spectrophotometers, and even designed a colorimeter once, so although I am not the sharpest knife in the box, I have some understanding, or rather familiarity, with color issues. My eyes are those one can expect from a color consultant.

The issues here seem are complicated; usually the eye -or rather the mind- adapts to the ambient white. But when an instrument is quickly held to the eye, or when peripheral light from a white sky impinges on vision, this adaptation won’t immediately take hold, and the user gets full benefit of the “color cast”, just as she takes up the instrument.

Now the discussion can become cultural because eg. japanese like green casts, and americans or europeans often prefer warmer yellowish/reddish casts. One could see this with the old yellow Kodak, and green Fuji boxes - and orange Agfa.

From trying some binoculars, I have noted the blue green clinical Conquest look, a green cast with the x42 SF and my own Pocket, the warmth of several Leicas. I think in then end it is safest to assume each company has its own look and that if color is important one should stick to the brand one likes. In fact one might assume that the known color bias now turned into a brand signature which won’t change.

As regards final color appreciation even if viewer adaptation occurs, it’s not obvious how far viewer adaptation will take one on a given binocular. Think of it as looking through sunglasses or a mirrored car window: Sometimes certain memory colors like a known sea blue or a bird’s bright plumage may never be percieved through some instruments because the absorption at the extremes is just too strong.

If Gijs publishes spectral data in spreadsheet format one day, experts will be able to figure out roughly what a viewer would see for certain samples viewed in certain known illumination conditions. The software for this is out there, as well as multispectral images of sample scenes.

Edmund

PS The industry probably employs some specialist color consultants who help tune the color and who could speak up. When younger I was such a person in the photo industry, and a bunch of us were usually sent prelim samples before software or hardware releases, just for our esthetic opinion.
 
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Gray C

Newbie birder
Using metal rings is a bad idea IMO, even with binoculars with metal strap lugs. I've seen binoculars where metal lugs were very worn after people used metal rings for attachment.

Hermann
I am based in the UK and use a Rick Young harness on my binoculars. However, I
had to order some special plastic/rubber connectors from RY, so that the harness metal rings do not attach directly to my Swaro SLC metal lugs. Hope this helps
 
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b-lilja

Well-known member
Finally had a chance to read through this thread, I really enjoyed your review and once again I find we have extremely similar methods and preferences. A few assorted thoughts in response to things which caught my eye....

Color cast is a topic I've discussed / argued about a lot on these forums, and I am particularly sensitive to it. It's a difficult subject to discuss, because one person's "tint" is another's "cast" is another's "emphasis". The terms are mushy and our subjective perceptions quite different.

I often find that color balance isn't as obvious at first, and only after using them in various habitats and lighting conditions can you nail it down. And with good binoculars, where these shifts from neutrality are relatively slight, it's often only REALLY obvious in direct A/B comparison.

As an example, I have two Ultravid HD (not plus), 8x32 and 7x42. I find both to appear quite neutral and vivid in good light if I don't study things too critically. But if I do careful comparisons I can see the relative emphasis of the warm end of the spectrum and the slight dingy yellowing of deep blues. But for the most part, just using them and not thinking about it, it's not an issue. But compare them A/B with quick switches vs a "green" binocular like the Conquest HD and the departure from neutrality (for both) is strikingly obvious to me.

As a common reference point, I'm curious if you could compare the color of the 32mm Conquest HD to the SF? And have you tried the 8x25 Victory? These are binoculars I've owned recently and know well. I would describe the 32mm Conquest HD as having a slight green "cast", but not the 8x25 Victory which is more netural, vivid and transparent. With the 8x25 Victory, even though I can detect a slight bias towards coolness (blue/green), it doesn't rise to the level of a "color cast" to me. Perhaps what we are really describing is how closely they adhere to neutrality given our particular eye/brain thresholds, and once?

I also find that the Conquests are extremely crisp, in a "technical" way as you described, but flatter and less "emotional" than the Leica Ultravid saturated warmth. It is my pet theory that the "Zeiss hump" transmission with a peak in the center (500-600nm) and rolling off on both ends (deep blue is worse than Swaro and deep red is worse than Leica) improves the "crispness" and "technical" feel but also yields the slightly "flatter" look.

These are subtle things that are difficult to describe well.



On the SF vs EL, I was surprised to see Gijs' measurements showing the EL SV to have a pretty sizable transmission advantage over the SF. Usually the comparable Zeiss vs Swaro has the Zeiss peaking a little hire in the center of the spectrum, with the Swaro pulling ahead as it heads towards the blue, but the Swaro EL SV is well ahead of the 8x32 SF pretty much across the spectrum. That's clearly why people are reporting the SV to be more brilliant, but I find the just-OK transmission of the SF to be surprising considering some of the glowing praise (and Zeiss's reputation for very high transmission with the FL and HT series).

View attachment 1357946
Hi Eitan, thanks for the kind and thoughtful reply.

Your and others' thoughts about color are very interesting and thought provoking. I feel like we are just getting around the edge of a very complex topic. Atmospheric conditions and planetary position all seem like they would have big influences on the actual presentation of color in a given time and place, as well as the fact that we all have variable biology and brains. Definitely not an a or b sort of thing. I would suspect even transmission graphs only paint a part of the picture. They honestly remind me a bit of the distortion graphs they used to publish in Stereo Review, and as someone was saying on another thread recently, it's a bit like audio - most audiophiles will dismiss the curves and go straight to the experience - as there's so many elements (certainly the case for me).

I am not an optics expert in any way, nor do I want to be since this is a hobby, and I have plenty of technical work to focus on at the office. However it is a lot of fun to play with, and I prefer to keep my focus on subjective experience here (it is funny, I tried to get my optician to speculate about all this, and he was totally not interested, and he is a very smart guy).

I think the thing the set apart the SF x32s was that they are the first binoculars I've used where I actually noticed the color shift without looking for it. Sure, I've noted the warmth of Leicas, or the coolness of Zeiss. But there was maybe 5-10% of the time with the SF x32s where I looked through the bins and thought, "that's not the color I was just looking at". It especially happened looking at certain sea and cloud conditions where blue tipped into yellowgreen. Also, greens that just got a lot greener.

I've owned and used Conquest 8x32HDs for about eight years, pretty hard. This whole process has increased my admiration and appreciation for just how good they are. I see the cool yellowgreen in them if I look for it, but I never really noticed it until I explicitly looked for it. I think the cast is more pronounced in the x32 SFs. I have only looked through the 8x25 Victories once, and found they were too shaky for me to be good users.

As I have messed around with these alpha bins, I've really come to realize that they actually go beyond normal vision into being slightly augmented. On thing I really like about both the Leica BNs and the Nikon SEs as they feel pretty representational to real life, just higher magnification and clear. The Leica 7x42 UVHD+s are in that vein but cross a threshold of vividness, "sparkle" that seems extra-real. I think the SFs go even further, and perhaps push the design limits which result in some of the color cast I'm talking about. If the bottom line is that it only affects a minority of users and/or a minority of places, I'd say, that's great.
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
I see no color cast in mine. Whites are brilliant, and everything looks natural to me. The images are absolutely "crystaline".

Of course, I really haven't looked for it, nor have I convinced myself that it must be there because others have reported it.
 

b-lilja

Well-known member
I had not known about the Nikon SE, but I have always been impressed by the way this attachment is recessed in the Leupold Greenring Yosemities. A great porro with some similarities to the Nikons. Don't know who was first, but I fully agree with your assessment that this is the way to do it!
Finally got around to taking a photo - this one's for Swissboy.
 

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